This is episode one in the Countable Podcast Series. Here, Countable Founder and CEO Bart Myers speaks with Countable CMO Jory Des Jardins. Their conversation covers the transition from print to digital media, and from the beginning of the Internet up to web3. In particular, Bart and Jory discuss Internet communities, and what to expect in building Community 3.0. Topics include the end of the cookie and the return of authenticity in online communities. Vehicles for that authenticity include AR/VR, the metaverse, cryptocurrency, IoT, and more. Above all, here is an optimistic vision for the future of the Internet. Users will have more control over their data and their identities, and ultimately more agency.
On the end of cookies and the return of authentic communities
A main feature of the web 2.0 – aka the Internet as we now know it – has been the use of HTTP cookies. These are small pieces of data used to track user activity and customize experience, as well as to target advertising. The things you see online are very much influenced by this cookie data. In effect, your Internet community is largely created by third party marketers.
Users haven’t been very happy about this. And following the GDPR’s “cookie law” and Google’s announcement that it will not support 3rd party cookies after 2023, things are about to change. Given that, how will things change for users? According to Bart Myers, there will be a return to the more authentic communities of message boards and Internet 1.0. Bart says, “Because of the end of the cookie, we're now going to see a return to branded communities, trusted communities that are authentic, and have a connection with their audience. So what's old is new, again.”
From first to zero party data
Jory elaborates, saying “I think now with cookies going away, marketers are asking themselves, how do I have an authentic connection? Again, how do I get not just first party data, but zero party data. For folks who don't know the difference, first party data is what we willingly give to a platform or a brand, because we want to take part in something. I provide my name, or my age, or where I live, because I want to have the product sent to me, or I want to participate on the platform.
“But zero party data is pure opt-in. Here's what lights me up. This is how I want to get content. This is the content I really am interested in. These are the things that I want to pursue my passions. This is what I’d be interested in hearing more about. Which is the Holy Grail for a brand that wants to have an authentic connection with an audience.”
On building Community 3.0
More and more there is an idea that trust can be conveyed in web3. In previous incarnations of the Internet, it was difficult to know who somebody was online. Whereas In web3 communities, users will theoretically be able to control aspects of their identity that get shared, which can increase trust and enable verification. In brief, then, what is community 3.0?
Jory explains, “I think of community 3.0 as very aligned with web3. I think it's decentralized. Think about communities running the web itself. The web was always very centralized, and then became even more so with big tech. Platforms like Facebook, that had so much of your data, were almost too big to fail. So much of your data was tied up in one platform.
“And now web3 is really saying, Alright, our data is everywhere. But it's immutable. And it's totally transparent. But it's also secure. And it's still difficult for people to get their heads wrapped around. But knowing that my data is secure, and it's immutable. And yet anyone can access these transactions, not just one company, actually makes me trust the platform even more.
“So I think that community is going to be built on those principles. And I think it's going to be built on other platforms. So AR/VR/MR. All of these other media, where we're starting to engage, but there's still a lot of friction. When those frictions go away. We're going to apply rules of engagement to those as well. And it'll be just like swimming. You just dive right in and you know what to expect. And then we'll start to see communities that are cropping up more and more in the metaverse.”
On future trends in online communities
Trends in future technology will undoubtedly impact the development of online communities. These trends include cryptocurrency, the metaverse, virtual reality, a fully connected Internet of Things, and decentralized identity. Beyond that, what else will influence these conversations? Jory argues that major innovations will be centered around how users are able to control their data and their privacy.
She says, “We're seeing a lot of legislation around data and control of data. And more and more, I think that we're going to have more control over our data. We think we have control over our data because we can opt to give it to an entity or not. But then we can't participate if we don't, often. That's not really a choice. That is a false choice. So being able to control our data, and knowing exactly where it is once we have opted into providing it. So innovations around identity, and how you are portrayed online, and having a greater awareness of that.
“And technology that shows – we see this with Apple – I've opted in and out of these ads. I’ve opted here. I’ve opted out of this. That wasn't even a conversation that was being had two years ago. Now everyone is aware of where their data is. I think there will be more innovation there and how we are maintaining our identities online. Privacy, and more privacy technology.”